White Gas Tank, 1968

The late 1960s was an era marked by triumphs and tragedies that included the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and antiwar protests, countercultural movements, political assassinations, and the emerging “generation gap.” In 1969, a group of four Wake Forest students traveled to New York City under the supervision of Dean Mark Reece and Provost Ed Wilson to purchase contemporary art for the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art (then known as the College Union Collection).

Sidney Goodman’s White Gas Tank was one of 20 artworks acquired on that trip.

Sidney Goodman (1936-2013), White Gas Tank, 1968, Charcoal Drawing on Paper, 26" x 40"

Sidney Goodman was the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents who moved to America in the 1920s. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Goodman studied at the University of The Arts, (formerly the Philadelphia College of Art) earning a degree in 1958. Within the next few years, his bold, figural works would capture national acclaim. His artistic career was expressionist, conveying angst within the human condition. Then, he transitioned toward realistic work, and eventually steered back to expressionistic work once more, toward allegory.

In his artwork, Goodman was primarily drawn to figurative realism shown in ominous lighting. He once claimed: “Light has its own power and mystery.” From the mid-1960s until the late 1970s he was particularly concerned with what he calls: ‘the violated landscape”—inanimate structures (water tanks, gas tanks, dumpsters, stadiums, incinerators, out of scale buildings) that threaten the harmony of nature. He depicted these structures to emphasize man’s disruption of nature.

detail of White Gas Tank

This charcoal drawing of a gas tank renders the structure with beauty. Goodman’s gentle mark-making abilities communicate grace, subtlety, and quietness. At the same time, there is an underlying tone of violence, disruption, and questioning. The profound sense of emotional gravitas in this charcoal drawing is reflective of the times in which this work was made.

The FOCUS series features one artwork per month from the Wake Forest University Art Collections. Reflections from students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged. To include your voice in the dialogue, contact artcollections@wfu.edu.

Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art, CU1969.16.1

Copyright retained by artist or artist representative.